Yahyaoui, editor of the online publication TUNeZINE, was arrested at the Internet café where he worked in the capital, Tunis, and detained. He was sentenced two weeks later to 28 months in prison.
A Tunis court found Yahyaoui guilty of intentionally publishing false information, a violation of Article 306 of the country’s Penal Code. The charge stemmed from a number of articles posted on TUNeZINE, including a piece criticizing the May 26, 2002, constitutional referendum in which 99.52 percent of voters approved constitutional changes allowing President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali to run for a fourth term. Yahyaoui was also found guilty of using stolen communication lines to post his Web site, a violation of Section 84 of the Telecommunications Code.
Since Yahyaoui established TUNeZINE in July 2001 using a pseudonym, the site has frequently published articles and commentary—including the views of leading Tunisian dissidents—that harshly criticize the Tunisian government. Authorities have blocked the Web site to users inside Tunisia, but TUNeZINE has often circumvented these barriers by establishing alternate addresses.